In 1940, the whole world watched Britain during the Second World War. Could they stand up to the dark forces of violence and intolerance of Hitler then at her throat? In 2002, the world watches Pakistan. Can Pakistan stand up to the dark forces of violence and intolerance that threaten to subvert the motion and end all progress toward peace and justice for her people?
We have reached an historic moment of opportunity. The whole world prays that Pakistan can seize it boldly and embrace a better future and does not stumble backward into a new Dark Age. In the past week, terrorists have murdered Pakistan Christians in a school and hospital. They claim to have done so in the name of God, although God now weeps for their deeds. What sort to human beings would commit such attacks, against such targets: schools and hospitals serving those who come to Pakistan only to serve and those who are among Pakistan's neediest citizens? Who are these people who seek to divide and destroy the Pakistani nation and to replace it with what?
The answer is they are no friends to Islam, no friends to Christians, no friends to civilization, anywhere. The violence of their deeds does harm beyond even those innocents who die at their hands. For it gives the appearance that Muslims and the Christian minorities in Pakistan cannot live together in peace and security. This is not true.
These faiths have lived together in peace before, and we pray they will do so again. Muslims minorities live in peace and security in other countries. So Christian minorities must be able to live inside of Pakistan. If there is to be peace among the nations, there must be reciprocity of tolerance among the nations.
We speak as Christians in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Pakistan now in such peril. And we speak in solidarity with the vast majority of Muslims in Pakistan, who also worship the one true God and try to live in obedience to his commandment to love and serve their neighbors.
We call on the government and all the citizens of Pakistan to protect the rights of the religious minority and move in the direction of a state where all religions are free to establish and propagate themselves without fear. The Qur'an declares: "there is no compulsion in religion," and any Muslim who says or acts otherwise betrays Islam.
We also call for reconciliation, in the spirit of the one God who made and love us all, Christian and Muslim alike. Both Christianity and Islam are missionary faiths, but neither can be permitted to threaten the other. Men and women only bear witness; God alone comforts. Rather, in dialogue these two faiths must be reconciled. This is truly God's work, -working through us his servants in this world, as Anglican bishop Michael Nazir-Ali reminds us: we are called to work for reconciliation, never forgetting that it is God who reconciles us to himself and one another.
The opportunity is now. Pakistanis of peace and courage must stand up for their beliefs and the beliefs of minorities in their midst. The world is watching and prays for your success as a nation. But more important, God is watching, and he will not abandon you, now or ever. The God of love has promised to be with us always, even unto the end of the age. God keeps his promises. God acts through us. And he had told us what he expects us to do. He expects us, as St. Francis said, to become instruments of his peace:
Where there is hatred, let us sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy
For it is in giving that we receive, and pardoning that we are pardoned, in dying that we are born to eternal life.
By The Rev. Canon Patrick P. Augustine, Rector
St. John's Episcopal Church, Waynesboro, Virginia
Chairman to Companions for World Mission, Episcopal Diocese of the Southwestern Virginia